Topics Covered in this Guide
Everything you need to know about getting started with SEO in this complete guide - it's extensive.
• An Overview of SEO
• Keywords Research
• On-Page SEO
• Off-Page SEO
• Technical SEO
• Run an SEO Audit
• Get Help
An Overview of SEO
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, you’ve more than likely come across the term if you’ve been looking into building your online web presence, growing your business, or speaking to other Service Businesses that are doing pretty well for themselves.
What does SEO mean? What does SEO do for your Service Business Website?
In short, when you search for something on Google –
You expect to see the best and most appropriate results for your search query at the top of Google, correct?
The real objective of SEO, is to get top rankings on Google so that new customers can click on your website.
That’s what SEO does, it gives you the opportunity to be at the top of Google, so that your customers are more likely to click on your website.
It increases your exposure online, so that you can get more traffic, more organic visitors to your website.
And therefore - they can call you, get a quote from you, and then become your next customer.
Sounds good, what’s involved?
Ah! Good question, that’s why we’re here!
I’ll break it down in the next few short sections for you - a brief overview, if you will.
Keyword Research - Allows us to pick and focus our attention towards keywords that are being searched for by your customers on Google.
On Page SEO - Getting the keywords, content, headings, formatting, tags, and meta data correct on your website.
Off Page SEO - Building credibility for your website, links to your website from other websites, directories, articles, industry links and other accreditations.
Technical SEO - Technical Coding, Server Response Rates, Security Certificates - it requires software development, systems and programming knowledge in order to effectively speed up your website and associated infrastructure.
So now that you’ve had a brief overview of what is involved with SEO, let’s get into the nitty gritty and we’ll talk you through everything you need to do for SEO step-by-step.
What is a Keyword in SEO?
A keyword is a word or phrase your customers will type into Google when they are searching for a product of service like yours.
For example, with Marketix, that could be “Adwords Agency in Sydney”.
Different keywords will have more “search volume”, more people looking for that term, than others; and therefore have more competition.
For example, there will be more people searching for “Lawyer in Sydney” compared to “Lawyer in Penrith”.
With Keyword research you want to find the most appropriate keywords to “target” for your business, going after the high-volume keywords whilst attractive, are very difficult to get ranked for.
Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords
It doesn’t just end there though, because there could also be phrases that would be appropriate for your line of business.
A person could be looking up “how to fix a leaking tap”, that sounds more like a phrase or a question, surely?
Well yes it does, and it’s a high intent phrase – that’s why we call this a “long tail keyword”.
The volume of searches for this phrase may be fewer, but it gives a higher intent for what they are looking for.
So whilst a “short tail” keyword would be “plumber in Sydney”; the “long-tail” keyword could be “my kitchen tap is leaking”.
So when you’re doing keyword research, you’re not just focusing on a small amount of keywords, you are actively looking for short and long-tail keywords.
The objective is for them to become the foundational layer of everything that you start to do in terms of your future search engine optimisation for your website (or SEO, for short).
Tools for Keyword Research
There’s a whole bunch of tools out there available for you to conduct your keyword research, but before you even go there - do the following…
You don’t need any tools to do this part.
• What services do you provide? (Pick 3)
• Where do you provide those services? (Pick 3)
• What are the top 3 issues, problems encountered or questions customers have related to your services?
You’ve just come up with 27 variations of possible keywords and phrases for your business. Pretty cool right?
Now we’re going to test this, see where the value is, where the opportunities are, and see if we’ve missed anything along the way.
Google Trends -
Google Trends is a website by Google that analyses the popularity of top search queries in Google Search, across various regions and languages. The website uses graphs to compare the search volume of different queries over time.
Google Search Console –
Google Search Console is a web service by Google which allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimise visibility of their websites. It also shows which phrases and keywords are triggering your websites search results within Google.
SEMrush is a software as a service (SaaS) company that provides intelligence data including website traffic information, keywords, projected AdWords spend, site audits, topic research, lead generation, and other SEO-related data.
Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest –
Ubersuggest allows you to get insight into the SEO strategies that are working for others in your market so you can adopt them, improve them, and gain an edge. From head terms to long-tail phrases you’ll get hundreds of suggestions from Neil’s free keyword tool. You’ll also see volume, the competition, and even seasonal trends for each keyword.
Moz offers SEO tools that includes keyword research, link building, site audits, and page optimization insights in order to help companies to have a better view of the position they have on search engines and how to improve their ranking. They also have an online community of over 1 million digital marketers and SEO experts.
Audit your website, explore competitors, research keywords & backlinks - all in one place. Powered by seriously big data & trusted by top SEOs.
There’s so many more tools out there, but believe me, from a basic SEO research standpoint - this is all you need to get started.
Some are paid for tools, others tools are not (generally, Google’s tools are free to use).
Moz and SEMrush can get quite expensive as they are provided on a monthly SaaS (Software as a Service) subscription model, and are also fairly heavyweight and complicated tools to get your head around.
So once you’ve done your keyword research, and you’ve now got a clear idea on the keywords you’re going to target let’s get down into the implementation of On-Page SEO.
We’ll break this down into the key areas as we go along, the important thing to remember is that Google is a machine – It sends “crawlers”, which are effectively automated bots, to go around the internet and find stuff – it then “indexes” that stuff, or content, so that everyday people can find it.
The point is this, Google does not see your website as pretty pictures or nice colours. It looks at the content, the way it’s been formatted, the way Google “perceives” it.
With On-Page SEO, we’re doing the balancing act of getting it right for your end-users (i.e. real people) and for the Google Crawler Bot (machines).
Page Titles for SEO
The page title is exactly that, it tells Google and your users what the page is about, and it helps decide the relevancy of that page to a Google search query.
If it’s an article like the one you’re reading now, you want to tell your audience that this is the “Complete SEO Guide for Service Businesses”. Right?
Your page titles will show within the Google results, they’ll show at the top of the web browser for your users, and in external websites where your page might have been shared (Facebook for example).
Titles have an impact on your CTR (click through rate), that means the likelihood someone will click on your page.
You want to “front load” keywords for your Page Title, put your keywords at the front of the title as you don’t have much space and this is what Google will pick up on first.
Some other quick title tips:
• Keep it short and impactful (55-65 characters’ maximum)
• Use keywords in your title
• Front load your keywords in your title
• Keep your titles unique and interesting
• Entice a user to click through to your page with your title
Descriptions / Meta Tags for SEO
Meta Descriptions and Tags provide further context to both your users and to Google, it gives a little more depth to your title and allows you to append certain “tags” (think like #hashtags) to your page.
Which will ultimately help Google to determine the page content, page context and the suitability of your page to the searchers query.
Descriptions will display within Google’s search results under the title, and is typically the second place a real person will look before clicking through to your website and making that “click commitment”.
Again, you want to ‘front load’ your keywords but also entice your users to “click-through” to your page.
Some top tips on Meta Descriptions and Meta Tags:
• Make it snappy and give them a reason to click through (up to 155 characters’ max)
• Use your Keywords in the Description and in the Meta Tags
• Make your description stand out and unique from those of your competitors
• If you have an irresistible offer, include it here
• Don’t stuff your meta tags with a whole bunch of keywords hoping to get lucky
• Stick to your focus keywords (relevant to that individual page) within the meta tags
Headings + H1/H2/H3 tags for SEO
Much like if you were reading a book or an article entry on Wikipedia, you would expect to see Headings and Sub-Headings.
Again, they give context and purpose to the people reading your content and also tell Google that this is something important for it to consider as part of its indexing.
There are typically “6 levels” of Heading tags which would be appended to a heading, and they range from H1 (the top title) to H2 (subheadings), right through to H6.
Top tips for using H1-H6 tags for SEO:
• Use your focus keywords in your headings
• Structure your headings in a skeleton architecture that makes sense
• Make headings for your users (humans), not just for Google
On-Page Image Optimisation for SEO
A big gap that I’ve seen even so called “SEO gurus” make is not to optimise their images for on-page SEO.
You see, whilst Google has the ability through its algorithm to look at a picture and figure out what is contained within the picture (a dog, a person, sky – Yes, Google can really do that);
You also have the ability to influence the context of what Google sees within that picture.
These are called image description, and image “alt” tags.
Much like meta descriptions and meta tags, it allows us to dictate to Google the context of which that image should be;
Or if that image is actually a link to another webpage, what the context of that next webpage is (we call this an anchor, we’ll cover this in more detail at a later stage in this guide).
Top tips for On-Page Image Optimisation for SEO:
• Use your focus keywords where appropriate
• Don’t put BS in as your alt or image description tags, you’ll get caught out
• Make sure ALL of your images have both ALT + Image Descriptions set (no excuses)
• Image sizes can be large and slow down your website, don’t forget to read our technical SEO section!
Getting Content Right for SEO
A massive part of SEO is content, delivering the right quality of content, the right type of content – the type of content that people actually want to read.
It’s about getting content right, but also (getting it right) from an SEO perspective.
Think about it this way, when you search for “how long to boil an egg” on Google…
(Yes, I know you’ve been there…)
What do you expect to see?
You expect to see relevant information, not misleading rubbish full of fluff – but something that leads with some level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
I want you to remember (yet another) SEO or Marketing acronym, E-A-T.
Expertise. Authority. Trustworthiness.
It’s Google’s way of protecting searchers from low-quality content that has the potential to be detrimental to a searcher.
To be an expert is defined as “being very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area”.
So it’s about being able to communicate that you are indeed an expert in this field or topic, and doing it in a way that is engaging and digestible.
What about Authority?
Authority is about having trust, having other people cite you – talk about you, or even mention you.
Trustworthiness shows Google and (real people) that you are worth spending time with and listening to; we find that this can be a blend of online reviews, online sentiment and also having easily accessible terms & conditions, privacy policies or refund policies.
I’ve only covered this from the surface, E-A-T is a huge subject and should be treated as such.
A condensed overview guide like this will not give you the knowledge you need for this aspect of SEO, but it will give you a taste.
Next, is about content length – Never, ever, have a page which is low in content, or low in words.
We tend to benchmark at 300+ words per page (at a bare minimum), whilst maintaining we aren’t overdoing it with stuffing keywords, or writing fluff.
The content has to be relevant, sharp, and to the point – whilst being engaging and giving great context and value to the user.
Write your content for the end user, in a conversational tone, not for search engines.
It sounds counter productive – but it works for us.
One rule in life, business (and SEO) = Cut the crap, and get to the point (whilst adding value).
We also recommend using multimedia across your content; breaking it up with images, data, graphs, videos, infographics, and so on.
Lastly, don’t forget that having a regular cadence is important too – it’s all good and well writing an epic piece (much like this article).
If you’re not delivering Google regular content, at a regular cadence, you will fall of the face of the earth (your Google rankings will go down).
We think that once or twice a week is a good balance to maintain and improve your Google rankings over a period of time.
SEO is definitely a long term game, and it requires consistent effort and commitment to get great results.
External and Internal Linking for Search Engine Optimisation
This closely relates to “E-A-T” from a Google perspective, you want to make sure that there is relevancy (plus proof, authority, and trustworthiness).
Build links within your content to other resources; other articles, other websites of authority (think industry bodies or associations), there’s obviously many more opportunities for you to link to other content on the internet.
Keep it relevant, add value to the user, and show Google that you’re to be taken seriously.
It also provides further context (we call it ‘content clusters’ in SEO).
If you’re writing a long-form piece like this article, aim for at least 5-8 links going outwards (to high authority websites).
Also consider internal linking, link keywords to appropriate content you’ve placed within your own website.
Make it relevant, don’t overdo it, but also don’t forget to do It (build internal and external links).
SEO is a fine balance, a science, and an art.
Now that we’ve scratched the surface of On-Page SEO, here comes the next step – think of on-page SEO as building the foundations, and then think of off-page SEO as accelerating that hard work (and investment of time) that you’ve put in.
If you recall earlier, we talked about how Google sends out “bots” to “crawl” the internet and then “index” that content.
Well, one of the ways in which Google determines how high a particular page or website should be ranked is in their “pagerank” algorithm.
According to Wikipedia and Google:
PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
If you’re interested in the computational mathematics behind it, you can learn more around the theorem and mechanics here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank
But you don’t need to know that, all you need to know is that in order to rank higher – you need links pointing to your website, lots of high quality links and mentions of your website/brand with relevance.
Your first point of call is registering your business on as many business directories as possible, these are easy links to obtain and demonstrate that you have a legitimate business.
You may also find a couple of leads or new customers from these directories, so it’s worth doing.
We have made a list of the Top 15 Australian Directories here (you see? This is an example of internal linking we’ve done).
There are literally hundreds of different directories out there – just focus on the biggest ones with the most traffic, and make sure that they’re relevant to your business - that’s where you’ll get your quick wins.
One last thing, there’s a bunch of shonky directories out there selling links – don’t waste your time, focus on high quality + relevancy.
Google can and will penalise you if it sees your trying to manipulate your rankings in unethical and dodgy ways.
Link building is a huge topic, and there are so many different angles to it that we simply can’t cover it off in this article.
But let’s focus on the basics:
The more links you have pointing to your website – the better you’ll do.
It improves your page rank, shows Google that you’re an authority, and that you’re important.
Not all links are made equal, having links from high-authority websites like Forbes or News.com.au will add more weighting to the link.
Whilst getting links from smaller, less authoritative websites will give you less weighting (or “link juice”, as we call it in the SEO world).
It doesn’t just stop there; there are two types of links – “DoFollow” and “NoFollow”.
This instructs Googles crawler bots whether or not follow the link, and therefore to give “link juice” to the link.
DoFollow gives link juice, NoFollow does not (well actually, technically that isn’t true, we don’t know how much weighting there is – but there is ‘a little’ juice passed through).
Don’t be discouraged though, you want to build up a link profile with a combination of DoFollow and NoFollow links, it shows authority and legitimacy.
You also want a combination of lower and higher authority links (if you can obtain them).
If you’re looking for a little encouragement on how to find links, use some of those SEO tools on your competitors and look at their top 10 backlinks – build your list, and then go after those websites, figure out how you’re going to get a link there too.
We do link building every day for our clients, it’s labour intensive and difficult (but it yields impressive results when you do it right).
Another way to get some links back to your website and build your authority out with Google is by “guest blogging”.
This means showing that you’re an authority on a subject and offering to write for free, on another website or blog.
There’s plenty of opportunities out there, I’m sure you’ve seen articles written on various websites by specialists.
Again, a very labour intensive process, “guest blogging” requires PR skills and knowledge – but yields great results, and hopefully a client or two.
Some quick wins can be made here, along with boosting your authority with Google and getting some backlinks (although most will be NoFollow).
Whilst there are so many social media platforms out there now, we recommend focusing on the biggest and most relevant.
Facebook – Setup a company page on Facebook, make sure you complete all the details an have a link pointing back to your website.
LinkedIn – Setup a personal professional profile, and also a business page here. Link back to your website.
Instagram – Setup a business page and link back to your website.
Twitter – Setup your business twitter page and link back to your website.
Make sure that all of your profiles are complete, have lots of relevant information and have all your correct details amongst them all.
This adds credibility and will add authority to everything you’re doing.
Oh – and don’t forget to keep reasonably active across your platforms, the more the merrier!
Good stuff, we’ve scratched the surface of On-Page SEO + Off-Page SEO.
Now we’re onto the technical SEO fun!
This is where we really ramp it up, and make big swings against your competitors – most people aren’t competent enough to do this part, most “SEO agencies” even lack the technical skills to pull this part off well.
This is where knowledge of how servers work, how computer code gets executed, speed, and security comes in.
So again, we’ll keep it as simple as possible for you – strap yourself in.
According to Wikipedia:
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is an extension of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is used for secure communication over a computer network, and is widely used on the Internet. In HTTPS, the communication protocol is encrypted using Transport Layer Security or, formerly, its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer.
In basic terms, HTTPS means the server is secure and has a security certificate – Google penalises websites without HTTPS.
They will tank your “ranking” if you do not have a SSL certificate, as Google want websites to be trustworthy (remember E-A-T?).
Many hosting providers will sell you a Security Certificate (SSL).
You can also get a free SSL online, you’ll have to update it yourself every few months and you will need to be able to understand how to install a SSL on a server.
If you don’t have technical skills, don’t bother trying, you’ll seriously mess something up.
Either ask your hosting provider, or we will set this up for you (message us for our SEO services).
Your website must be mobile ready, it must render on mobile devices, and automatically size itself on different devices.
In 2013, Google announced that it had made changes that will impact your websites rankings if it is not mobile-friendly.
In 2019, Google announced that Mobile First indexing was in play.
If your website is old, and is not on a mobile ready platform – this is something that needs to be addressed asap.
Not being mobile ready is the equivalent of sending letters via horse and carriage, instead of sending an email.
You’re going to have to rip out your old website, and have a new one put in place; we recommend building your website on Wordpress or MotoCMS as our favourite and recommended platforms.
You can do this yourself if you have the technical skills, you can even buy “templates” which have most of the design work done for you, or you can get a professional to do this for you.
Remember to build it with a SEO mindset first, most web developers can’t get this piece right - and we end up ripping everything out and starting again.
If you would like help with this, get in touch with Marketix.
Google also favours fast websites, that are optimised for desktop and mobile speed.
Google announced that were considering website speed as part of their “ranking factor”, and it’s pretty important.
So much so, that Google have also provided their own free tool for testing your website and seeing how fast Google believes it is: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Our top tips for improving your speed are these:
Make sure you are on a fast and responsive server that is within your intended region (i.e. Australian server for Australia), US server for the USA.
If you can afford it, get a dedicated server – not only will it be faster, but you’ll have your own IP address which will improve your authority (and improve email deliverability, wait, that’s a whole different subject).
Gzip is a method of compressing files (making them smaller) for faster network transfers. It is also a file format. Compression allows your web server to provide smaller file sizes which load faster for your website users.
Enabling gzip compression is done at your server level and will apply to how your text and images are delivered to your website users.
On top of GZIP compression, there are more modern and better ways of delivering your images. So many websites are using antiquated image formats that aren’t appropriate for modern usage.
Google even provide advice on this here: https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/audits/webp
If you’re looking for a tool to convert your existing images, we recommend: https://squoosh.app/
Squoosh is an awesome tool, you can see how an image will look after compression and how much you will reduce the file size by (and therefore reduce your transfer time, increase webpage speed).
Most code is clunky, it’s not optimised to be read as fast as possible, and in as fewer iterations by machines.
We start by looking at minifying-CSS and minifying-JSS, those are two different types of code on your website.
You obviously need to know how to code to do (and improve) this.
The more advanced option is to look at options like:
netlify / gatsbyjs / sanity
Using this technology will effectively render your website as a static site and deploy your website rapidly, it’s advanced – and you need to be a developer to do this.
According to Wikipedia (and a quick Google Search):
A content delivery network or content distribution network is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and their data centers. The goal is to provide high availability and performance by distributing the service spatially relative to end users.
In simple terms, a CDN has servers dotted all over the world, with a copy of your website on it.
This gives you great redundancy, security, speed, and availability.
You will need access to your server and edit the domain level DNS settings in order to setup a CDN, don’t mess around unless you know what you’re doing – you can stop your website from showing if you mess the settings up.
Run an SEO Audit on Your Website
Now that you’ve learnt the fundamentals of good website SEO for your Services Business, you’re ready to start running tests on your website to see how you are doing from a SEO perspective.
Here’s some tools we like!
Neil Patel’s Site Audit Tool - It will point out all of the SEO errors you need to fix in order to increase your rankings.
Hubspot’s Website Grader - Website Grader is an online tool that generates personalized reports based on Performance, Mobile Readiness, SEO, and Security.
Woorank - In-depth site analysis helps marketers reveal opportunities for optimisation and improvement.
SEOptimer – Another great SEO auditing tool, we love the layout and the clean reporting style.
You’re going to get different data points from each tool, and we recommend you try them all out to see how you’re doing.
Get Help with Your Website SEO
Finally, we’ve covered off the very basics of SEO for Service Businesses (and to be honest, any other business large and small in Australia).
There’s a lot to do for SEO, we’ve given you the information to get started yourself.
Or, if it’s too much, and you don’t think you have the time and commitment to make it work.
We’d love to help you (it’s what we do best).
And get really good results whilst doing it.
Oh, and you’ll know that we’re working on this consistently for you in the background (spending hours and hours each week) – whilst you focus on what you do best.
Get in touch and let’s have a simple conversation.
We’ll give you a free website audit, and share some cool ideas on what we would implement from a professional Service Business SEO perspective to get awesome results for you.